As Spring approaches it is my natural inclination to check in on the goals I set at the start of the year. Around 28, I started to see little white flags that the lifestyle I was leading was maybe not the healthiest. It was definitely the most fun, but certainly not the healthiest. But, that’s what your 20’s are for, right?
This is the year I decided to get healthy, fit and strong. I’ve slowly been shedding bad habits, old patterns and unproductive processes. Now, at 30 with several moves behind me, I’ve finally had the strength and courage to take charge of my health. I’ve been so good about keeping on top of my exercise and mediation routine but I have to admit my diet has taken a few hits in the last couple of months. Looking for ways to reboot my eating plan I went to one of my favorite go-to health guides, Well & Good NYC and discovered vegan Chef Jenné Claiborne.
New York City based chef, health coach and blogger Jenné makes the vegan lifestyle seem so easy that I decided I had to chat with her. In our no holds barred conversation, Jenné and I discuss her guilty pleasure, meat and five things we can all do to get a little health back into our lives.
Chef Jenné Claiborne
Let’s talk about plants, baby! What plants offer the best nutritional value and how much of it should I eat on a weekly basis? I tell people to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and plants. They all have different nutrient profiles, so that’s why it’s important to vary them if possible. Leafy greens are some of the most nutrient dense vegetables, so make sure you’re eating them daily. Obviously there are some nutritional superstars, like kale, quinoa and berries. Most plant-based foods offer vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, carbs and antioxidants.
I only eat plants! Leafy greens, other veggies, fruit, legumes, grains, nuts & seeds.
How important is it to eat seasonally? Eating seasonally is important because the produce available is usually beneficial to our bodies at that moment. For example, in the spring there are many detoxifying foods available, like dandelion greens. The summer represents cooling foods like watermelon.
Was it hard to make the leap from vegetarian to vegan? To transition from vegetarian to vegan wasn’t too difficult. I just had to make up my mind that this is something I really needed to do for myself and for animals. I was eating yogurt and the occasional pizza as a vegetarian. Sometimes I’d bake with eggs and dairy too. Every time I ate these foods I felt guilty because I knew they were riddled with animal cruelty and exploitation. It made me feel uncomfortable, so I finally educated myself a little more and gave them up. I feel a lot better morally and my energy and digestion is so much better.
What have you gained the most from your vegan lifestyle? From being vegan I’ve gained an amazing passion to help others transition into this lifestyle. I was an actress before becoming vegan. I always loved food and cooking, but it wasn’t until I became vegan that I realized that doing what I’m doing now (inspiring and educating others) is my true purpose.
There are lots of diets out there…what are your thoughts on the Paleo diet? Being vegan I’m obviously not a big fan of the high-animal protein Paleo diet. I like to live life with as little violence as possible. I believe that plant based is the way to go. From my own experience, as well as the research I’ve studied, plant based protein can be just as good as animal protein. Also, plant based foods don’t come with the saturated fat like animal protein. Many studies have shown that high protein diets can be detrimental to your health. The Paleo diet does recommend eating grass fed, naturally raised, high quality animal protein (Thank God).
Real talk, do you miss MEAT? I don’t miss meat. No way! I have never had red meat or pork, but I did grow up eating fish and chicken. If people knew the harm they were doing by eating a diet high in animal products, they might think twice. I have been especially concerned about animal welfare. People don’t usually like to accept animal cruelty, but when it comes to farmed animals we turn a blind eye.
Okay, what about ICE CREAM and COOKIES? I eat ice cream & cookies as a vegan. They are better than those made with animal products. There are a lot of baked goods that don’t need animal products to be delicious and with coconut milk, anything is possible.
Your were an actress? Wow, what a career shift….have you given it up completely? Can you share what happened in your life that brought you to this new path? I still go out for commercial auditions occasionally. However, I won’t go out for any food that isn’t vegan, so that limits me.
Serious acting I have completely given up, it wasn’t my passion. When I realized that I didn’t have any idea that I’d soon be a health coach and vegan chef. I just knew that I needed to do something with my passion for healthy food.
Do you ever have doubts? Nope, I never have doubts. I feel like my mission to educate and inspire people to live healthier lives is so important. I also think about the animals when I feel like giving up because things are so tough as a business owner.
The people, the animals and the planet are my drive 100%.
I admire your courage to move away from one career path and bravely step into another; it’s inspiring. Now back to food! Be honest, what’s your guilty pleasure? My guilty pleasure is most definitely tortilla chips!!!!! Especially the chocolate or sweet potato ones from Food Should Taste Good. OMG, I’m crazy about those things but I don’t eat them often. Once I start it’s really hard to stop : ( If only tortilla chips were my guilty pleasure….
I read you come from a family of “fantastic home cooks”, is everyone in your family vegan/vegetarian? I got my mom and Nana to give up dairy and poultry! No one in my family ever ate red meat or pork (no mammals), so that wasn’t an issue. I told them that their health would improve and filled them in on the industrialized farming system, and they were game to give it up.
How do you survive family gatherings, like Thanksgiving? Family gatherings are easy now. My Nana LOVES to learn new ways to prepare vegetables, so we have a lot more fun in the kitchen now. They still love fish though, and will make that for holidays. My favorite holiday centerpiece is the Lentil Loaf!! Lentil Loaf? I’ll have to get the recipe from you!
There is so much emphasis on diet (and it is important) but, what do you do to get moving? I’ve got so much energy. I always need to move. I take hot Vinyasa yoga, dance, Pilates and do interval training. At home I do short interval training videos, yoga, jumping jacks…anything to get my blood flowing. I also walk a lot, typical New Yorker.
Okay, I’m not ready to go vegetarian completely-maybe a few times a week, what are five easy things I can do to have a healthier diet?
Great! Okay, 5 things:
- Have a good reason for becoming a healthy eater. Is it for health? To lose weight? Better energy? Animals? Know why, and you’re more likely to stay on track and do what it takes to eat healthier. Like try new foods.
- Try a green smoothie. They’re great for breakfast and so tasty!
- Learn to cook some simple healthy recipes. They can be the foundation for you to explore even more. Check out my e-book 5 Ingredient Vegan. It’s free!
- Eat vegetables at every meal. Roast them, steam them, eat them raw, whatever you prefer. When you eat more veggies, you’ll crowd out the non-healthy stuff and start craving nutrition.
- Eat fresh fruit as a snack. Again, you’ll be crowding out the unhealthy food, and consuming more vitamins, minerals and fiber. Perfect for detox, and clearing bad stuff out of your body.
Bonus. Drink a lot of water if you don’t already
What are some things I should absolutely stay away from? I’d stay away from dairy and refined sugar. Milk gives you calcium and magnesium, but not as much or as high-quality as plants like dark leafy greens. Also, dairy allergy is super common. You might have one and not even know it until you give it up and start feeling better. It’s linked to higher rates of osteoporosis as well as breast and prostate cancer. Try non-dairy milk (almond, soy, coconut, etc…)
Refined sugar, like dairy, is addictive. It has no nutritional value, and makes people fat and sick. Try sweetening foods with fruit, coconut sugar, dried fruits like dates, maple syrup and stevia.
To learn more about Chef Jenné Claiborne and her services check out The Nourishing Vegan or her blog Sweet Potato Soul. If you are in the New York area, hire Chef Jenné to cook dinner in your home, I’m sure you won’t regret it!